Dr. Larycia Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, was placed on administrative leave for citing similarities between Christians, Muslims. Hawkins, who had been wearing a hijab as a gesture of what she calls embodied solidarity with Muslims, was suspended for suggesting that believers of Christianity and Islam do indeed follow the same God.
Hawkins drew attention on December 10 when she declared on Facebook that she stood in religious solidarity with Muslims because “they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book… And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God“, and that as part of her Advent worship she would be wearing a hijab “to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church”.
The next day, Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school, said it had received inquiries about remarks on social media by unnamed faculty about the relationship between Christianity and Islam, and their “fundamental differences”. Excerpts:
While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer.
On December 14, she responded to her critics on Twitter and Facebook:
A holy kiss to you who disavow the idea that Muslims & Christians worship the same God: I love you. Peace & respect. https://t.co/70vap3kLKr
— Larycia Hawkins (@LaryciaHawkins) December 13, 2015
In its response, on December 15, the college announced that it had placed Hawkins on administrative leave:
On December 15, 2015, Wheaton College placed Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins on paid administrative leave in order to give more time to explore theological implications of her recent public statements concerning Christianity and Islam.
As a Christian liberal arts institution, Wheaton College embodies a distinctive Protestant evangelical identity, represented in our Statement of Faith, which guides the leadership, faculty and students of Wheaton at the core of our institution’s identity. Upon entering into a contractual employment agreement, each of our faculty and staff members voluntarily commits to accept and model the Statement of Faith with integrity, compassion and theological clarity.
Contrary to some media reports, social media activity and subsequent public perception, Dr. Hawkins’ administrative leave resulted from theological statements that seemed inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions, and is in no way related to her race, gender or commitment to wear a hijab during Advent.
A day later, Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken emphasized:
The College has no stated position on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution. We support the protection of all Americans including the right to the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.
On December 22, came another announcement:
Contrary to Dr. Hawkins’ statements and numerous media reports, her paid administrative leave is not a “suspension,” nor is it punitive or disciplinary. Rather, it is a period of time to investigate and address, without a pre-determined outcome, matters of significant concern regarding Dr. Hawkins’ views related to our Statement of Faith.
Wheaton College has approached the possibility of reconciliation with the same level of seriousness manifested by Dr. Hawkins. Extremely frank conversation and communication have taken place in recent days. The College’s perspective is that additional theological clarification is necessary before Dr. Hawkins may resume her full duties. Regrettably, Dr. Hawkins has clearly stated her unwillingness to further participate in clarifying conversations.
However, 43-year-old Hawkins, the first African-American woman to become tenured at the college and a political science professor with the evangelical college since 2007, has no plans to resign. Hawkins, who plans to wear the hijab indefinitely, told The Guardian:
“I have tenure. So I am insistent that my tenure should not be revoked. That’s a non-option as far as I’m concerned, because … I’ve committed no offense. It’s inexplicable to me why that’d be the best possible scenario … I have integrity. If I didn’t, I would leave. I’m a Christian – there’s nothing else to explain.”
Sign this petition to reinstate Dr. Larycia Hawkins, a professor at Wheaton College, who wore a hijab to class to… https://t.co/zB8xIAMZH1
— SmileForCharity (@SmileForCharity) December 20, 2015